No one knows what the future holds.
Throughout this entire season of Ultraman Decker, we’ve looked at varying perspectives on the past and present from the characters in the show, and the franchise’s perspective as a whole. All those small interactions, details and decisions add up to define the team and their primary conflicts in meaningful ways. They also propel the cast into the future – although whether they willingly go forward with determination, or are carried kicking and screaming by fate, depends on the character.
If it sounds like I’m already waxing nostalgic about this show, I kind of am! After all, there are now only four more episodes of Decker until its conclusion. It helps to know there’s also a movie to look forward to in addition to the main run of the series, but I almost don’t want to say goodbye to everyone just yet!
There’s another reason I’m getting misty-eyed over thinking of the show’s conclusion though, and it relates to the focus of episode 21 this week. This is your fair warning that major, open spoilers for this week’s episode will be discussed in this article. Continue at your own risk!
With a title like “The Price of Prosperity”, and the cold open we’re thrust into, one would expect the story to deal with the dangers of unchecked scientific progress, unmoored from caution or concern for other lives. It’s a very common theme in Ultraman, and Decker even dealt with it back in episode 10, “Man and Monster”.
There, Kanata and Vice-Captain Kaizaki faced down Kaizaki’s former mentor who had created a horrifically powerful Kaiju as a weapon to assure humanity’s dominance in the universe. Even though the monster, Neomegas, was defeated by Decker and its creator was imprisoned, that sort of mindset lives on now in Chairman Hiyama of Scitech Laboratories.
Hiyama and the scientists working under him have developed a technology which seems far more beneficial than a rampaging monster – at first. They’ve discovered a new way to produce the S-Plasma used by GUTS-Select to power their weapons and the Nursedessei itself. However, our main characters quickly learn the source of that power is a captured Sphere.
Shockingly, no one at Scitech stopped for a moment to consider why that might be a terrible idea, and they brush off Kanata and Ryumon’s concerns with little regard for the risks. It was hilarious to see their entire reactor blow up literally two minutes after this conversation, and the newly reactivated Sphere created a monster of its own, Sphere-Geomos.
It almost seems like the episode is speed-running its way through a time-tested plot structure so far. Sure, the defense team might fail in their first counterattack against the monster (this is still only ten minutes into the episode!) but that just means the rest of the story will show off how GUTS-Select rallies to demonstrate humanity’s true ingenious strength with the cooperation of Ultraman, right?
Oh, we’re not done yet though. The Sphere-Geomos summons our old buddy, Spheresaurus, and restarts the Sphere barrier’s attack that threatens to doom the entire planet! It also shoots down every weapon and attack GUTS-Select throws at it! With both the Nursedessei and its jets grounded, de-powered, and out of options, the team still refuses to give up.
I loved the montage of their desperate plans to try and take out both monsters in one last-ditch shot – right down to the masterfully-crafted origami figures to represent all the pieces of their strategy. The scene reminded me a lot of Ultraman Mebius and the kind of teamwork we saw from the Crew GUYS members and their captain. It really shows how the main cast of Decker have all grown together to trust in each other’s skills, expertise and their determination to fight and protect all the lives they can.
It’s just too bad the plan doesn’t work this time. And with Sphere-Geomos left intact, it summons another Sphereasaurus from out of the fabric of spacetime, thanks to its S-Plasma power source.
But that’s not the end of the story, right? Surely the power of Ultraman will appear now, when all other options have been exhausted, when humanity has fought its hardest, but now faces a threat beyond our strength alone. Right?
It would be incorrect to say I was speechless at the moment when Kanata tries to use the D-Flasher to become Decker, and nothing happens. However, what I did say involves certain choice expletives that I should not be including in this piece. My reaction, and the reactions of other people watching the episode with me, were not out of anger though. Rather, the one thing we were all pinning our hopes on, the victory we were certain was only moments away, fizzled and died. In that moment, for the first time I can recall in this season, the possibility of complete failure seemed all too clear in the face of the unstoppable threats against our heroes.
In fact, that emotional gut-punch seemed to be completely intentional on the part of the production and writing staff for this episode! Kanata faces the same kind of uncertainty, despair and fear, and it severs his connection to the light which he has relied on so easily before. It might appear to be out-of-character at first glance, in comparison to the determination with which he faced the Spheres from the first episode, even before he had Decker’s power! However, looking back earlier in this episode I think provides a good explanation for why this fight broke him.
After talking to Hiyama and seeing the S-Plasma reactor which used the Spheres themselves to draw power, Ryumon and Kanata both agree the technology is too dangerous, but both have different reactions to that conclusion. Ryumon said he could understand the scientists’ perspective and concerns, even if he didn’t agree with their methods. In contrast, Kanata couldn’t empathize with them at all. What they were doing was wrong, and they had to be stopped, it was that simple in his mind.
This sort of strict, cut-and-dry, black-and-white dichotomous thinking has been the source of Kanata’s determination in many ways. He was able to throw himself totally into his fights, to keep pushing forward, to stay focused on things immediately in front of him because he always firmly believed that what he was doing was right. He was assured that he would be successful if he kept fighting for what he knew was right. But in the second half of the show, ever since Agams revealed himself and his hatred of humanity, Kanata’s certainty has been steadily eroded with every episode.
What if their actions will only make things worse in the future? What if their fight will only strengthen the Spheres? What if Kanata can’t save the world, or even Agams himself? What if humanity isn’t even worth saving, because of what they did to Agams’ home planet, and how humanity’s actions directly caused the crisis happening right now? These doubts hit a breaking point this week, and it nearly breaks Kanata himself after he’s confronted by Agams again.
Unlike Agams, however, Kanata doesn’t have to face those doubts alone. We saw this back in episode 16, when facing Pandon. The trust shared by Kanata and his teammates on GUTS-Select helped him to keep hope even when he didn't believe in himself. In other episodes, Kanata has also drawn strength from the example of the other Ultraman hero in this world, Kengo Manaka, Ultraman Trigger.
And this week, another one joins the fray.
Just like with Kanata’s moment of despair, I can’t write out exactly what I said at the moment I saw the classic CGI-based “Rise” animation marking Ultraman Dyna’s appearance. This time though, it was because I was yelling in excitement rather than terror. It’s only fitting though, we all expected Ultraman to show up when things were most desperate, when times seemed their darkest, when all hope was thought to be lost. We were just mistaken about how desperate matters were going to get in this episode.
Joking aside, yes, Kanata does overcome his doubt after Dyna appears – by literally slapping sense back into himself – and then manages to transform to fight as Ultraman Decker alongside Dyna. Even if things might end in disaster, the only way any of them can prevent that future is by doing everything they can right now. There are echoes of both Ultraman Geed and Ultraman Z here with Kanata’s response, and how he continues to fight even if he doesn’t know what the outcome will be. The echo of Dyna’s final words to Kanata after the fight is over also repeat that idea – “No one knows what the future will be.”
Earlier in the episode, Chairman Hiyama claimed the future would require his technological advancements, regardless of the cost. Repeatedly in the second half of the show, Agams has claimed the future which resulted in the siege and destruction of his planet would inevitably come to pass. As we saw with Kanata, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the future can only get worse, that our own efforts can’t make a difference against such huge, overwhelming dangers.
But just like with Dyna’s appearance this episode, even though we can’t predict when they will arrive, miracles do happen.
(Now I only wish either Decker or Dyna actually used Miracle type in this week’s big fight so I could make a joke about it. Ah, well, I’ll just have to file that one away for later.)
Despite the happy ending for this episode, the endgame looks like it will only get more desperate and gut-wrenching from here. Kanata and his teammates will need all the help they can get – from their past, from their present bonds, and from friends in the future – in order to save the Earth from the Spheres’ final assaults. And maybe, if miracles can happen once again, they’ll find a way to rescue Agams in the process.
Be sure to stay tuned to Ultraman Connection to see what happens next!